Monday, February 2, 2015

The Water's Edge

Play #6: The Water's Edge by Theresa Rebeck
3 Women, 2 Men

This one started out as a sort of standard dysfunctional family, then got a little darker, then a little more hopeful, then it turned positively Greek. Richard and Helen, it seems, were married, but have not seen each other in seventeen years. This also means that Richard has not seen either of his now grown children (Nate and Erica) in seventeen years. But today, he shows up at their house (which had apparently been his childhood home) with his girlfriend Lucy (who is the same age as his children) in tow. He wants to have a relationship with his children, and he wants to take the house back (which is strange, since he is quite wealthy and has at least four other houses). As the weekend progresses, more and more facts come out about the messy past of this family. First, it seems that Helen and Richard never bothered to make their divorce official... so they're technically still married. Also, the reason they separated was that their third child - Lea - drowned in the lake near this house, and Helen blames Richard for the death. As the damaged family tries to negotiate their reunion, Lucy becomes more and more the outsider - to the point that she is actually banished from a family dinner under the stars. There's a bit of a shift, however, the following morning, when Lucy returns from her night away from the homestead and Richard has apparently left without her. The end had a very clear Orestes and Electra vibe that I did not see coming. And I'm not sure I entirely buy it. The harshness of the final scene doesn't feel super connected to the rest of the play in some ways. I think it would be an interesting challenge to build a world in which the events that unfold would be believable, but without telegraphing them before we get there.

This is one of those plays that I feel probably doesn't get done all that often. Rebeck is a well known writer, and fairly prolific, but she has a number of plays that are much more audience-accessible than this one. It certainly wouldn't be much of an audience draw, but I think people might dig it if they gave it a chance. It might be useful for scene study work though, and there are definitely some useful monologues for women in their 20s and 40s or 50s, so that's good to hang onto as well.

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